Pastor’s Message – June 25, 2019

The Best Kind of Noise

Normally when I sit down to write, noise is not my best companion. I don’t usually need complete silence to concentrate, but I also try to avoid too many distractions. This morning is different as the best kind of noise is outside my office window: the construction sounds of long-needed repairs to caps on our church’s roof.

Machinery sits where the staff normally parks, and workers in hard hats replace the view of birds outside our windows. These are all signs of progress, images of new beginnings, and you are a part of the work. Whether you’ve donated to our building fund, served on the Board of Trustees, or prayed for our church, you are a part of what God is doing here at First UMC of West Point. I am especially grateful to Freddie Brister, chairman, and all the members of the Board of Trustees for their research and hard work. So often the work of our committees like the Trustees occurs quietly, but we could not function without their faithfulness.

As we enter the second half of 2019, we will soon enter a season of stewardship where we invite you to consider how you will continue to be actively faithful to our church. You may get a phone call to serve in a leadership role. You may receive an invitation to help with youth or children’s ministry. We ask because we need you. We invite because we value you. On Sunday, as we conclude our series on the Holy Spirit, will you begin praying for the Spirit’s guidance not on IF you will serve but on HOW you will serve in the joyful sound of Christ’s church?

This week marks the beginning of my fourth year as your pastor. My energy level is as high as the machinery outside, and I hope you feel as lifted in spirit as I do. We serve a mighty God in a mighty good church, and I look forward to growing with you in the year ahead. Let us give thanks for all God has done and all God will do!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, June 30, 2019
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62

* On July 1, our new district superintendent, Rev. Paulette Buford-James will begin her leadership in the Starkville district. We give thanks for her arrival and for the good work of our outgoing DS, Dr. Embra Jackson. Please be in prayer for both of them and their families in this time of transition. *

Pastor’s Message – June 18, 2019

“I’m So Glad I Came To Church Today”

Between worship services this past Sunday morning, I greeted one of our church members who told me something that was music to this pastor’s ears: “I’m so glad I came to church today.” She proceeded to tell me all of the encouraging words people had spoken to her that morning, how blessed she felt, how her week and day were off to a wonderful start.

So often we arrive at church with the question of, “What will I get out of this?” This sister’s testimony reminded me of the importance of walking into church, and into all areas of our lives, with the question, “What will I give to someone today?” It only takes a few words and a few seconds to pay someone a compliment, to encourage someone, or to invite them to share a pew. A small number of words sown in love can reap a large harvest of joy in a person’s heart!

Church is where we gather to actively remember the Word spoken over us as believers in Jesus Christ: “You are beloved.” As we continue to learn more about the Holy Spirit this month, let us remember that the Spirit of truth wants to speak words of “beloved-ness” through us not only on Sunday but all week long.

I’m so glad when each of you come to church on Sundays, but I’m also so glad when you are the church every day of the week!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, June 23, 2019
I Kings 19:1-15a
Psalm 42
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39


Pastor’s Message – June 11, 2019

Compasses and Callings

In the 1996 film, Mr. Holland’s Opus, an aspiring composer gets a job as a high school music teacher. Mr. Holland had barely begun his teaching career when Principal Jacobs approached him. He pointed out his strengths to her: he arrived on time, efficiently completed his tasks, and went home on time.  Yet Principal Jacobs noticed a void in the young band director. She tells him, “A teacher has two jobs: fill young minds with knowledge, yes, but more important give those minds a compass… I don’t know what you’re doing with the knowledge, but as a compass, you’re stuck.”

Compasses provide guidance. direction. location, a sense of place. Mr. Holland struggled to give compasses to his students because his own was out-of-order. His goal was to compose his own music. He had his eyes on a distant dream, a calling to change the world with his own music. With his vision so fixed on a future, distant place, he was oblivious to his current place–and the students right in front of him in search of their own callings.

When we talk about our “callings,” we often jump to language of action. Like Mr. Holland, we fixate on doing something else to the point of losing sight of where God has called us for such a time as this. We associate calling with what we are currently doing with our lives or what we hope to do with our lives. Yet in Isaiah 6, when the Lord asks who will go, Isaiah’s first response is not “send me.” The action comes second. His initial response is “Here I am.” Simply being before acting. Showing up. Checking his compass.

Mr. Holland soon finds his sense of direction both as teacher and musician. Let us all join in Isaiah’s prayer first, action second, and watch God’s glorious future unfold in us.
all good things to each other,
Pastor Darian
Lectionary Texts for Trinity Sunday
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16: 12-15


The Staff Parish Relations Committee has been notified by Bishop James E Swanson, Sr and the Cabinet of the Mississippi Conference that Pastor Darian has been appointed to FUMC-WP for another year.  We give thanks for Pastor Darian’s ministry and look forward to her continued service as our pastor, teacher, leader and friend in Christ.  We ask for your prayers for her as well as for the churches and pastors throughout Mississippi that share this time with us.

In Christ,                                                                                                                                  Robin McCormick

Pastor’s Message – June 4, 2019

Worship Series for June: The Holy Spirit

This upcoming Sunday is the Day of Pentecost when we remember the “birth” of the Church. It was on this Jewish festival years ago that 120 disciples of Jesus Christ gathered in an upper room to pray and to wait. Ten days had passed since Jesus ascended to heaven, leaving them with a promise that he would send a helper.

Can you imagine how long and mysterious those ten days must have been? They had no idea what this “helper” would look like, when he would arrive, what he would look like. All they had was Jesus’ promise. They gathered, they waited, they prayed, and they watched. When the Holy Spirit did arrive, Jesus’ promise fulfilled, how changed the world was! He came as wind, as fire, as heavenly language, as peace-giver, as comforter…. and so much more. During the first of our three summer worship series, we will spend four weeks learning more about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. I look forward to worshiping with you.

I also invite you this week to be in prayer for the Holy Spirit’s guidance at Mississippi’s Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. We will meet June 5-8 in Jackson, MS, to order the life of our Church in Mississippi. I will serve as your clergy representative, and Bill Maclean will attend as your lay representative. ‘

Would you join me in this prayer by Brian and Katie Torwalt as we embark on our study with the Holy Spirit?

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here

Come flood this place, and fill the atmosphere.

Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for,

To be overcome by your presence, Lord.

Let us become more aware of your presence. Let us experience the glory of your goodness.

all good things to each of you,                                                                                                                                                                        Pastor Darian

LectionaryTexts for Pentecost Sunday                                                                                                                                                            Acts 2:1-21                                                                                                                                                                                                          Psalm 104:24-34, 35b                                                                                                                                                                                  Romans 8:14-17                                                                                                                                                                                                    John 14:8-17, 25-27

Pastor’s Message – May 28, 2019

The Gospel According to Leslie Knope

One of my favorite television shows is Parks and Recreation. Filmed in “mockumentary” style, the show follows the local government of fictional Pawnee, Indiana. Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, an employee in the Parks and Recreation department with big political dreams. She drives everyone mad with her enthusiasm, yet her co-workers can’t help but love her.If there were one sentence to summarize Leslie Knope, it would be the following: She LOVES Pawnee, Indiana.

In the season 5 premiere, Leslie sets a lofty goal to clean the Pawnee River. She has trouble acquiring grants and financial support. Discouragement tries to creep in as doors close in her face, but Leslie Knope says “nope!” She calls a press conference and announces that every Saturday from 8AM to 10AM she will clean the Pawnee River herself, and anyone who wants to help her is welcome to come. Clad in knee-high mud boots and her spirit of determination, Leslie shows her town in her actions how much she cares. The dozen onlookers at the press conference applaud and follow her into the river.
“So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
— Luke 22:27 (Common English Bible)

I love the way Jesus talks about leadership: beginning not with power but with service. Change began on the Pawnee River when Leslie stepped into the mud and invited everyone else to join her. She was not putting on a show. She acted out of love for her community.

May we be a people who not only look for the rivers that need cleaning. May we also be a people who go and clean them.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary for Sunday, June 2, 2019
Acts 16:16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-21
John 17:20-26

Pastor’s Message – May 21, 2019

Teamwork, Transition, and God’s Perfect Timing

As we shared with you a couple of weeks ago, our Minister to Youth and Children, AnnaBeth Harrison, will leave on May 23 for her and Oliver’s new beginning in Florida. At that time, a team appointed by the Staff-Parish Relations Committee was hard at work behind the scenes in search of AnnaBeth’s successor. We are so grateful for Jim Williams, Ashleigh Flurry, Chris Jester, and Shane Alpe, who all helped with the process. We didn’t have news to share with you then, but we are thrilled to share good news with you now.

The Staff Parish Relations Committee has unanimously approved the hiring of Kyle Chickvara as our new Minister to Youth and Children. Originally from Kennesaw, Georgia, Kyle is a graduate of Mississippi State University. He was active in the Wesley Foundation, has worked at Camp Lake Stephens, and currently is completing a year-long fellowship at Oxford University United Methodist Church. Most importantly, Kyle has articulated a deep love for our Lord and a strong call to youth ministry.

To add to God’s perfect timing, this Wednesday, May 22, Kyle will be able to attend the youth & children’s summer kick off at the Harrells’ barn. He will be in the church office Wednesday afternoon to meet with AnnaBeth and ensure a smooth transition. We don’t yet know his exact start date at FUMC but will keep everyone informed.

We are also pleased to share that Camden Shock, who served as an intern with the youth last year, will return in the fall to continue in that capacity. Camden has been a valuable asset to our youth program, and we look forward to his return.

This past Sunday, one of the lectionary readings was from Psalm 148. Verse 1 simply declares, “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!” Our hearts are full of praise for the the teamwork, transition, and timing that brings Kyle to us. Please pray for him, AnnaBeth, the church staff, our youth, and children as we embark on this new chapter. And offer up your own song of thanksgiving for God’s goodness to us!

Rev. Darian Duckworth                                                          Mrs. Robin McCormick
Pastor                                                                                         Chair of Staff-Parish Relations Committee

Pastor’s Message – May 14, 2019

Bicycle Theology: The Farewell

Ten years ago, I bought a bicycle. It was a mountain bike that was affordable and versatile. At first I was wobbly and had to re-learn the gears. With careful patience, I was soon cruising up and down hills along a river. Before long, bike rides became my regular physical and mental exercise. Because I had to focus on what was right in front of me, I easily forgot what had weighed on my mind.

A few years later, the bicycle with its worn wheels made the trek north with me when I moved, but something had changed. The bike was no longer comfortable. I thought about trading it in for a road bike or getting different tires. I tried to ride early each morning, but I dreaded what I once loved.

The truth was: I no longer wanted to ride the bike. I wanted to walk on two feet at a neighborhood trail instead of riding two wheels around town. I put the bicycle in the storage room and laced up my sneakers.
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? ~ Isaiah 43:18-19a, New Revised Standard Version

Change is difficult because it includes an ending and a beginning. As Isaiah wrote, clinging to the old prevents us from embracing the new. God constantly presents us with changes for our good. How often do we avoid risk-taking in favor of what’s comfortable, familiar, and easy?

We tend to think of change as sudden and drastic, but change can be much more gradual. God gently eases us into the new with something as simple as our hobbies. Perhaps in simple changes God wishes to teach us great truths.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary for Sunday, May 19, 2019

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 138
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

Pastor’s Message – May 7, 2019

Giving Thanks For AnnaBeth

Nearly two years ago, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee took a leap of faith in the hiring of a full-time Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries. And oh the rewards we have reaped! We were so blessed to have an applicant as qualified as AnnaBeth Harrison practically dropped in our laps.
There is no doubt that the hand of God was in the process: blessing our church, our youth program, and our children’s ministries.

When AnnaBeth arrived, we had an average of five or six students at United Methodist Youth Fellowship. We have had 20+ students at several functions lately. And have you visited with one of our youth? They are leading Bible studies and continue to grow under AnnaBeth’s (and Oliver’s) leadership, in addition to the other adults now involved. These students are the future of First UMC, and we can all be proud of the ministries we now have in place.

Has AnnaBeth ever asked you to do something? We find it nearly impossible to refuse when we see all she is doing. But every single time, we walk away knowing we were the ones receiving the blessing.

We knew when AnnaBeth joined the staff of FUMC that she and Oliver would only be in our area for a couple of years, and that time has flown by. Oliver has already moved to his new job at Duke Air Force Base in Florida, and AnnaBeth will join him permanently on May 23.

Her last Sunday with us will be May 19, and we welcome you to show your appreciation to her in whatever way the Holy Spirit leads you before she leaves. We thought it appropriate for the youth and children to honor her with special events, but the gifts don’t have to stop there. Please feel free to reach out to her as the Lord directs you.

At the luncheon for our high school seniors, AnnaBeth had assembled a slideshow that concluded with this verse: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Go forth in God’s strength and courage, AnnaBeth and Oliver, and we wish you many blessings wherever you go.

Robin McCormick                                               Rev. Darian Duckworth                                                                                                     Chair of Staff-Parish Relations                        Pastor

Pastor’s Message – April 30, 2019

What Draws Us To Church

My dog, Isaac, is not normally a fan of church. He seems to know that it’s the place I most often go when I leave him at home, especially on Sundays. However, on his morning walks, the churches on Broad Street frequently draw him with their springtime scents. When my dad walks Isaac, he prefers sniffing the flowers at the Presbyterian church. Last week, he walked past our church to investigate the sign at the Baptist church. This morning, he walked right up to the door of the Christian church. And yes, he does occasionally stop by the courtyard of our church to ensure all is in order!

Different congregations have different offerings that draw us humans into their fellowships, too. Every church has its own unique “scent” formed by the Spirit’s work there. At the same time, every church should have the same basic aroma of the love of Jesus Christ.

Our first priority as First United Methodist Church of West Point should always be to draw people to the love of Jesus Christ: not to ourselves, but to Him who works with and in us. I invite you this week to spend some time with two verses of Scripture, followed by two questions. Please spend some time with the verses before you answer the questions. I would love to hear your responses.

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (The Message)

1. What has drawn you to this congregation?

2. What will you do to help draw more people into the “exquisite fragrance” of Christ’s love in this fellowship of believers?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Pastor’s Message – April 9, 2019

Between Sundays: Walking Holy Week with the Passion

It’s easy to focus on the Sundays.

Here as we enter the most sacred week of the Christian year, many of us can quickly identify the next two Sundays. On April 14, we wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna!” to the Son of David. On April 21, we celebrate that Christ our Lord has risen from the grave. What joyful celebrations they are, but when we ignore the events of the week between those Sundays, we have only bookends without the pages of the Church’s great story.

During Holy Week here at First UMC of West Point, we will have the opportunity to hear that whole story. The Passion narrative in Luke’s gospel encompasses 91 verses of Scripture, but we will not read them all at once. We will hear some verses on Passion/Palm Sunday, some at the Holy Thursday service, and some at Good Friday’s Reading of the Passion. We will spread them out not only as a traditional readings but also in the Stripping of the Altar on Holy Thursday and the Tenebrae of Good Friday.

It’s easy to focus on the Sundays, but this year would you focus also on Holy Week? Our Holy Thursday service will be at 6PM on April 18 and the Good Friday service will be at 12 noon. Whether or not you are able to attend these services, I encourage you to set aside time to read the Passion Narrative throughout the week. It is a story that deserves our time and attention. It is a story that changes us. The whole story is our story of holiness through Jesus Christ our Lord. I look forward to a Holy Week of worship with you.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for April 14, 2019
Liturgy of the Palms                                                                                                                                                                                          Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29                                                                                                                                                                                                    Luke 19:28-40

Liturgy of the Passion                                                                                                                                                                                                  Isaiah 50:4-9a                                                                                                                                                                                                              Psalm 31:9-16                                                                                                                                                                                                               Philippians 2:5-11                                                                                                                                                                                                        Luke 22:14-23:56